I have been in love with trees for as long as I can remember. My relationship with them grew as I became more aware of myself. The concept of Awakening the Tree of Life Within evolved as I searched for personal and collective healing. I truly feel this is my purpose on earth. I believe we have much to learn from both the wounded and inspirational stories that came before us. Wisdom born of knowledge without fear or judgment empowers us to search deeper and reach higher. This gives us the strength and vision to stand in the present moment with clarity and love.
My tree story began where I was born, Frankfurt, Germany – 1954.
I lived in an enchanted seven-level villa (three levels below ground and four levels above) next to an equally enchanted park.
Holzhausen Park was just a few steps from our home and I visited there every chance I had. It was a magical park filled with trees and a Baroque villa surrounded by water. In 1961, at the age of six, I met a special tree that awakened my soul and stirred my mind.
I was walking in the park with my brother Henry, when I sensed something on my left. I saw a woman inside the translucent trunk of an old sweet chestnut tree. She seemed to be motioning for me to come near her. I was hesitant and asked my brother if he could see her. He didn’t so I became fearful and ran to the other side of the park. Later that night the spirit of the tree came to me in my sleep. Again I was afraid, but then I relaxed as I sensed her message for me, “You are here to help people understand each other better.” I was immediately excited by this sense of purpose.
The following morning I found myself at the top of the stairs reflecting on what had happened the night and day before. I imagined flying down the stairs when in that moment I felt two hands gently slide under the back of my armpits and lift me up off the floor. I was now gently floating down the entire flight of stairs. As soon as my feet touched the floor I ran into the kitchen to tell my mother about the tree spirit and her message for me. These experiences felt very real to me, but my mother dismissed my “over-active imagination.”
A few days later my father told us we were moving to the United States that week! I wasn’t able to say goodbye to the tree spirit or to the park itself. We lived in Alexandria, VA for a short time, because my parents had been working the the CIC/CIA in Frankfurt since 1948. We settled in Algoma Wisconsin, a small fishing town along Lake Michigan.
The day before I was to start third grade in a new school, new town and a new country; I found a postcard in my grandmother’s photo album that said I had been in an orphanage? I ran to my mother and grandmother and asked if I was adopted? My mother sternly responded,“Yes, but I don’t want to talk about it.” My grandmother just shook her head. I felt my life literally flip upside down with no one to talk to.
The next morning I was asked to introduce myself. I said, “My name is Laural Ann Virtues, I just moved here from Frankfurt Germany, but I just found out that I’m adopted and for all I know I could have been hatched!” The class laughed at me and began calling me Hitler’s daughter. When I got home I asked my mother who Hitler was and if he could be my father? My mother was irate, but refused to talk to me about any of it. I was so confused by the secrets that now surrounded my life.
My idyllic childhood now felt empty and dark. I began asking for the tree spirit to find me so I wouldn’t be alone. I sat by every tree near our home and waited for her, but she never appeared. I wondered how I was going to help people understand each other better, if I couldn’t even understand myself.
As the days, weeks and months went by I continued to be bullied by my classmates. I started hiding among the cedars between school and my home. It was in their safety that I finally felt loved and welcomed in this new country. They, in essence, were my first American friends.
I spent most of my time alone among the trees along Lake Michigan and the Ahnapee Creek. I climbed large oaks and elms and stayed in them for hours. I found myself able to dream my life into being in the presence of these strong and silent companions.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and went to college determined to change the world. I graduated with a degree in social work, 8 years later I went back to school and earned a second bachelor’s degree in communication arts.
My adoptive parents passed away early in my adult life, and in 1994 I was reunited with my birth mother. It was then that I learned how I had been forcibly taken from her and that she had been praying that I would find her. She had married my birth father in 1963 who had tried to get me back in 1961, the same year we left Germany. I never met him for he had passed away in 1976. I now understood that the circumstances surrounding my birth were complicated by Nazi Germany, post WWII, the Cold War and the CIA.
My mother Karin had named me Carmen Sylvia, which means “Guardian Tree.” She understood who I was and shared my spiritual passion for trees and nature. I started to feel that I could sink into my roots, but within months of meeting her she passed away. My heart broke in such a way that I felt hollowed out to the core.
By now I was married, we had a son who was nine years old and we were living on 40 acres of ponds, woods and wetlands, that reminded me of Holzhausen Park. I wanted our son to know the magic of living in nature among the trees.
The day after 9/11, I felt the collective fear and confusion of what was happening in the United States and abroad. I found myself pleading with the universe to help me fulfill my soul’s purpose. I wondered again how I could help people understand each other better?
In that exact moment, I had a vision of the tree spirit as the Tree of Life. My body became electrified at the thought of untangling the roots of world belief to find common ground. I spent every moment from that point on researching world belief from 40,000 BCE to present day within each continent. When I felt overwhelmed by all the information I asked for guidance and saw a mandala. I researched mandalas and discovered that it is a spiritual art form and the archetype for wholeness. I could now feel the wisdom of the tree spirit awakening within me.
On June 6, 2006, I was struck with a deep sense of knowing that I had to leave my career of 25 years on 7/7/2007. At this point I was the President/Creative Director of a 42 person ad agency in Green Bay, WI.
I traveled back to Frankfurt, Germany in the spring of 2007 to reconnect with the tree of my childhood only to discover she had been hit by lightening the year before. I found what felt like her, lying on her side marking one of the paths in the park. Moss and ivy adorned her like a cloak as she transitioned back to the earth. I was sad to not see her alive but, I was humbled to be near her now.
In preparation for leaving my career, I attended my first mandala retreat facilitated by Dr. Judith Cornell at Mount Madonna, California. My first mandala was based on the intention of connecting with my source. I found myself drawing a tree radiating from my heart. When I was finished I meditated on its message for me.
“You are the wonder that shines out for the world. In your soul you now have the answers you seek. You are the tree rooted in the sweetness of Mother Earth yet reaching for the highest points in the universe. Through me you will find your soul, for I have been protecting it for you until you are ready to know the true beauty and light that shines within you. You see the world through me, you try to make sense of mankind in my branches, you want to hide in the safety of my caress, in the shadows I cast. But you cannot. I continue to grow just as you must, so leave my hiding place and step into your light. I will always be here for you and within you. You are a child of the everlasting seed of love and life. Go and share the wonder you hold with the world. And remember to reach out to me for I will be always be here to love you unconditionally.”
When I returned home one of the retreat participants had sent me a photograph of my mandala. I was shocked to see a “spirit” in the trunk of the tree. I had not intentionally drawn it or noticed it until now. I felt it was an affirmation to move forward with my plans.
I began studying nature-based energy healing in the Andean tradition and creating a medicine bundle (mesa) filled with sacred stones (khuya’s) that I had collected from places I loved. Each stone held a story from my life that I was healing. I traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains to reconnect with the roots of my biological father’s ancestry. I learned that my paternal lineage was a mix of English, Irish, Scottish and Cherokee. My father’s forefathers had all moved here long before the Revolutionary War and had lived in the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia. I brought my mesa to one of the highest points to release a stone that carried the anger that no longer served me. I called in the directions, my ancestors, and the trees. I honored the intense anger that had consumed my heart and how compassion had given me the wisdom to let go with gratitude and love.
I traveled with my mesa to Holzhausen Park, in 2012 and 2014, to connect with the land that held my heart. I honored the spirits of the land and sensed the wisdom, sadness and resolve of its ancient roots.
A friend found a painting of the original Holzhausen estate before Frankfurt engulfed it. The tree of my childhood was now standing there for me to see.
My heart was grateful for her guidance and the hope she gave me throughout my life. I truly felt that she and I were intertwined in such a way that we helped each other through this life. I will forever be grateful to all trees for showing me how to love unconditionally without judgment and to forgive with compassion.
My life has taken many twists and turns, some to very dark places where I learned the importance of sinking in and embracing all aspects of life as moments of profound wisdom.
In August of 2016, I had the honor of hosting, Adolfo Ttito Condori in my home for two weeks. Adolfo is an Andean Altomisayok (Andean Wisdomkeeper) who I have been learning from. During his time in Wisconsin he wanted to know my story. When I told him he asked to go to Lake Michigan where my sorrows began. He sat with me under one of the cedars I loved and held space for me to feel life come full circle. Later we did ceremony along the shores as I expressed gratitude and asked for Lake Michigan to let me go. It was a magical day.
He taught us the cosmology of the Tree of Life and how it is a universal symbol for our energy/light body. He gave us insights on how to travel through ourselves and connect to nature as a profound healing path.
In February 2017, we moved to southern Oregon to live near our son. We are now in the land of the ancient Coastal Redwoods.
I see trees as wise teachers that grace our daily lives. As we love them, we love ourself, as we understand them and the stories they hold we understand ourselves. As we understand our self we will begin to understand each other.
Let us create a better world together, in love.
To learn more please visit my website: www.lauralwauters.com
I have written two books:
Mandala Chakra also has a dedicated website: www.mandalachakra.com